SAN FRANCISCO, November 07, (THEWILL) – The city of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, was rocked by a protest on Thursday as about 100 women and children took to the streets to demand the release of their detained husbands, fathers and sons over alleged membership of the terror group, Boko Haram.
Claiming to be wives, mothers and children of those arrested by the military operatives and detained for months, the protesters said their breadwinners who are being holed up in different security detention cells should either be released or the families be told if their detained husbands, children and parents are no longer alive.
Converging at the premises of the Borno Radio Television (BRTV) where they have gone to register their protest , they alleged that most of their husbands, sons and fathers had been taken away by military operatives and kept in detention in the barracks for different periods ranging from between eight months to over one year.
Speaking with journalists on behalf of the other women during the protest, one of the protesters, who is also a Medical Records staff of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Ya’hadiza Bulama Musa, said most of their husbands and children arrested by the soldiers months back were innocent.
She wondered why the detainees were still being kept in custody, without any one telling them the truth about their state of being.
Ya’hadiza, who was close to tears, said two of her sons, Mustapha Tijjani Bukar and Allamin Sule Tijani, both graduates , were arrested while they were driving out of their streets at Ngomari-junction on June 6 and since then she had not set her eyes on them.
“Our children are not Boko Haram, they were arrested innocently and wrongly by the JTF who labelled them Boko Haram. I am a mother and should know my children better. If they are Boko Haram, I will not be here wasting my time. But I know my children; they are educated just like their fathers.
“I have written several letters to the then JTF and even the present 7 Division in September and October but they never listened to me or responded to me. The last time I was there, the commander chased me away, saying they don’t want to see anyone again. I became afraid and could not go back there again. If they are dead, let them tell me so that I can mourn them in peace,” she said.
A 14-year-old boy, Bashir Zarami, could not control his emotions as he broke down in tears while recounting his ordeal. He said his father was arrested in his presence and since then he could no longer go to school or feed himself properly.
“My father is a provision seller there at Bayan Quarters area”, he recalled. “I was with him on the day soldiers came to our shop some eight months ago (February) and began to beat us, asking us to lay down with our faces to the ground. ”
He explained : “After trampling on us, they dragged my father out and took him away. Since then I was left alone, I don’t know my mother, my father brought me up alone. Now I have no one, I cannot go to school, and no one to feed me, except I beg. Please Governor Kashim should assist me to free my father; they said he is at Giwa barracks, and I cannot go there.”
Another protester, Halima Isa, said her son, Yahaya, 30, was a furniture maker at Jiddari Polo area of Maiduguri. Security personnel arrested him one morning while trying to pray at home.
“He was in the bedroom with his wife when soldiers came in to pick him, calling him Boko Haram. He was innocent. That boy feeds and takes care of me and his pregnant wife. I have nobody except him. He pays my medical bills; treats my hypertension and ulcer ailment .
“We are not Boko Haram; we are Fulanis from Adamawa, and God knows we don’t know any Boko Haram. Please Government should help us to see our children again,” she said.
The Directorate of Civil Military Relations from the Defence headquarters Abuja led by Air Commodore Ademola Onitiju, had in February, visited Maiduguri in the wake of an earlier protest that the army had been keeping suspects in detention without trial. Onitiju then promised that a special investigation team made up of legal luminaries would soon be deployed by the Defence Headquarters to screen suspects in detention with a view to freeing innocent ones and charging those “who had case to answer to civil courts for trial.”
The protesting women however said felt it has been over eight months on and their husbands, sons and fathers are yet to be released from detention.